'Future' baseball game proves fun for Pickles, Knights
The Portland Pickles and Corvallis Knights played a "Future" exhibition game on Thursday to celebrate the Fourth of July and what baseball might look like in 2050.
"It will be lighthearted and fun," Pickles manager Justin Barchus said pregame. "Hopefully it will still be competitive baseball."
The game turned out to be fun and competitive despite not counting for anything but bragging rights. The promotion seemingly worked, too, as the Pickles not only won 11-3, but set an attendance record of 2,997.
Some of the new rules included a game shortened to seven innings, a halftime after the top of the fourth inning, bonus balls, only eight defensive players in the field, flipped bases in odd innings and a 15-second pitch clock.
"My favorite part of the night was seeing everyone try to learn the new rules and see everyone screw up on them, myself included," said Corvallis "shortstop" for the night, pitcher Connor Knutson, from the University of Portland. "It was a lot of fun."
A bonus ball resulted in an automatic out if thrown for a strike, an automatic walk if thrown for a ball and a double if hit for a single.
The two teams took advantage of the fun and quirky rules by using nicknames, stealing bases, flipping bats and putting players in new positions.
The rules also created many firsts on the diamond, including a steal of first base, a batter being thrown out at third base on a ground ball and a middle infield of pitchers attempting to turn a double play.
"It was pretty much whoever wanted to get some at-bats could play," Knutson said. "We were trying to involve everyone. Other than that, it was pretty much run by the players themselves."
The best moment came in the second inning. The in-house entertainment and crowd began to chant "bunt" to Portland third baseman Jonathan Kelly (Xavier, ex-West Linn High). Rather than give in, Kelly opted to swing away.
His decision paid off big-time as he launched a ball over the left field wall for a two-run home run.
The homer not only created a memorable bat flip, but it also capped off a six-run inning for the Pickles.
"Especially in this game, which is all about fun, might as well throw the bat a little," Kelly said.
Another interesting moment happened in the top of the third inning. Knutson, who hadn't hit since his senior year of high school four years ago, worked a leadoff walk. Normally, this event wouldn't mean much, but "K-Nuts" (his nickname on the back of his jersey for the night) trotted to third base when he took the bonus ball high.
This unfamiliar jog from home to third was due to the odd-inning rule that the first batter of the inning can flip the bases.
"Running the opposite way was really weird," Knutson said. "It was really hard to get used to."
Unfortunately for his teammates, the rule was quickly forgotten.
Briley Knight (University of Utah) hit a would-be single up the middle, but ran to first base instead of third base, resulting in an out. However, Knutson scored all the way from third base on the play.
The next two outs of the inning also came when the hitter ran to first instead of third.
The night ended with a fireworks show and an auction of the Pickles' custom "Future" jerseys.
"This was the most fun I've had in a while," Knutson said. "Getting to take batting practice, ground balls and everything you normally don't get to do, it was just fun to be a part of."